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Foundation: Isaac Asimov: 1 Miękka oprawa – 19 września 2016
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WINNER OF THE HUGO AWARD FOR BEST ALL-TIME SERIES
The Foundation series is Isaac Asimov’s iconic masterpiece. Unfolding against the backdrop of a crumbling Galactic Empire, the story of Hari Seldon’s two Foundations is a lasting testament to an extraordinary imagination, one that shaped science fiction as we know it today.
The Galactic Empire has prospered for twelve thousand years. Nobody suspects that the heart of the thriving Empire is rotten, until psychohistorian Hari Seldon uses his new science to foresee its terrible fate.
Exiled to the desolate planet Terminus, Seldon establishes a colony of the greatest minds in the Empire, a Foundation which holds the key to changing the fate of the galaxy.
However, the death throes of the Empire breed hostile new enemies, and the young Foundation’s fate will be threatened first.
Często kupowane razem
‘One of the most staggering achievements in modern SF’
‘Isaac Asimov was one of the great explainers of the age…It will never be known how many practicing scientists today, in how many countries, owe their initial inspiration to a book, article, or short story by Isaac Asimov’
‘Asimov displayed one of the most dynamic imaginations in science fiction’
‘Asimov’s career was one of the most formidable in science fiction’
Isaac Asimov was the Grand Master of the Science Fiction Writers of America, the founder of robot ethics, the world’s most prolific author of fiction and non-fiction. The Good Doctor’s fiction has been enjoyed by millions for more than half a century.
- Wydawca : Harper Collins Publ. UK; Edycja 10 (19 września 2016)
- Język : Angielski
- Miękka oprawa : 240 str.
- ISBN-10 : 0008117497
- ISBN-13 : 978-0008117498
- Wymiary : 13 x 1.52 x 19.71 cm
- Ranking najlepiej sprzedających się produktów: Pozycja 7,355 w kategorii Książki (Zobacz Top 100 w kategorii Książki)
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Anyone who knows Science Fiction knows that Foundation is a seminal work, one of the great works, an era defining masterpiece of the genre. But what does that mean for the reader now? Does a book written in 1951 still stand up?
Foundation is the story of the collapse of an intergalactic empire and the efforts of a scientific community to preserve and rebuild. It is exactly that ambitious in scope and in never flinches from that. It is creative, engaging, visionary, leaps smoothly from generation to generation and adventure to adventure in a fashion that would make a Marvel movie feel comfortable and is, above all, a bloody good read. It is also jammed packed with some of Asimov’s most quotable lines (the above about violence being my favourite).
There are problems for a modern audience. The endless reference to “atomic” weapons feels quaint rather than threatening. The idea that you might mathematically model future social development based upon predicated behaviour of the masses provided there is no significant influence from individuals feels rather silly now, especially for those of us who have worked in the modelling of crowds: you kind of have to swallow the principles of “psychohistory” as psychobabble and roll with it. Finally, there aren’t any women to be seen. After all, why would women want to have anything to do with this nasty Science nonsense (cough, Bletchly park, cough.) Oh, wait, there’s a wife. She nags a lot.
Still, it was 1951, and if you can look past the stuff that doesn’t make any sense any more this is still a brilliant book and a brilliant read. Most of all, if you want to indulge yourself in the old days when we used to think the smartest and the bravest would win out against the stupidest and most loud, this is a warm balm against the nasty burns you get from watching the news.
I will add that I haven’t read any of the sequels, so there may be a feminist uprising in second foundation that includes a complete revision of psychohistory to embrace the modelling of chaos. But, to be honest, as long as it has more spaceships and smart people I’ll keep reading.
Oh dear, I guess some books don't age well and the eyes of adulthood see them very differently.
It's a classic, but now seems quite dull and dated. The technology of the planets on the edge of the crumbling empire seems laughable. Does Asimov really expect us to believe atomic power is revered as a religion to planetary systems that no longer understand it? The prose is clunky and the politics rather contrived. The book is really quite dull; whatever did I see in it? My fault for revisiting what I recall as a childhood favourite.
Opinia napisana w Wielkiej Brytanii dnia 13 sierpnia 2020
Wait… are they mathematicians or psychologists? The book seems to start off with Seldon as a mathematician and then goes onto refer to him as a psychologist throughout all the other stories. Weird.
The fall of the Galactic Empire as explored by Asimov is based around the history and fall of the Roman Empire. It’s a great concept, as with all of Asimov’s work - very high in concept indeed, for its time - but as a thoroughly modern reader, I couldn’t help but feel it was all rather… simplistic.
What do I mean by “simplistic”? The reason we’re given for the fall of the Galactic Empire is stagnation of thought: the entire galaxy has basically forgotten how the 50,000 year old technology of “atomic power” operates - a crucial technology for their very survival - and instead of training more people to reclaim that knowledge, they ignore it and restrict the use of the technology to the core worlds (and have maintenance people constantly doing minor repairs on power plants that are falling apart because they only know how to use it empirically). The consequence is that entire star systems essentially regress to an early 20th Century level. And the reason for all of this is because the nobles of the Empire have forgotten what the scientific method really is, and nobody is bothered about doing any new scientific research. They only want to catalogue the old.
An entire galaxy. Hundreds of thousands of planets. Quadrillions of people. And everyone’s simply forgotten how to do science? Come on.
Countless works have elaborated on the foundation (pun intended) Asimov laid here over the years. Galactic empires have been a staple for large-scale epic sci-fi for decades now, and I daresay they’ve refined the concept. We have more believable politics and motives, more complex machinations, and deeper analyses in later works than here right at the start. The politics that led to the rise, and then the resistance that preceded the fall of the Empire in Star Wars, for instance, is far more engaging and believable than the reasons given in Foundation. It is perhaps because Asimov frames the concept of an empire as a largely good thing: sure the current Galactic Empire is rotten to the core due to corruption and stagnation, but we only need to do it right next time around. Whereas in more modern works, a true empire (under a single absolute monarch) is pretty much universally acknowledged as a bad thing: a force for the evils of conquest and indigenous erasure.
So, in all, I don’t think the version of the Empire Asimov has in Foundation holds up today. I mean Frank Herbert’s Dune, written only 14 years later, does it a lot better.
Also, I know this is endemic of the genre in general (most egregiously in Star Trek), and something we’ve begun to move past now, but we have a failure of worldbuilding in that planets are treated as though they are small nations or settlements. It’s much easier to manage a world when it has only one type of people on it and is administered from one central place, but across an entire planet it’s not very realistic. Terminus, the planet of the Foundation itself, is excused from this, because the Foundation literally is a small settlement on an otherwise barren and inhospitable world lacking in resources. The other planets of the outer reaches - Anacreon, Smyrno, the other two of the Four Kingdoms, and Korell? No. Not excused. It’s possible the problem here is that Asimov was trying to apply the fall of the Roman Empire to a vastly upscaled civilisation, to the point where I think a lot of that stuff falls apart. Controlling lots of planets is a different creature to controlling and administering several countries on one planet. If you can only just barely do the one with a centralised totalitarian regime, there’s no way you can do the other.
The Foundation’s growth isn’t particularly believable either. I can buy that it starts as a small settlement focused wholly on creating the Encyclopedia Galactica, and that it needs to leverage its bargaining strength as the only atomic power in the sector to stop itself being invaded by the Kingdom of Anacreon, but later on it turns science into a religion and rules through it and… what? It kind of lost me at that point. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief any more after that.
Let’s move on to characters. Asimov is not good at characters. I’ve been told he’s better at it in later books, but these early works really do just treat characters as entirely inconsequential. One of the main reasons Foundation is not engaging to me as a modern reader is because there’s zero attention paid to the people in the story. Couple this with the fact that the five stories are short and they each represent a significant jump forward in time and a brand new set of characters, by the end I didn’t know or care who anyone was, aside from Hari Seldon and Salvor Hardin. Even then, everyone has essentially the same personality - the main characters in each story are shrewd, businesslike, intelligent, logical and project this air of professionalism akin to MPs in the House of Commons pretending to be gentlemanly. They all chomp cigars and outwit their opponents. The differences between them are very minor. By contrast all of their opponents are framed as stupid; angry, lumbering oafs that are easily outwitted by applications of simple logic.
The prose lacks in any meaningful description, and the setting of each story is essentially in a meeting room or an office. It involves people: dignitaries, mayors, boards of trustees etc… sitting down in formal meetings and talking - all except the last story, The Merchant Princes, which does have changes of scenery at least. It all makes for very dull reading. There’s snippets of action here and there that hint at the potential of the story, but overall the execution feels like a rough outline. This is the skeleton of a story. With actual character development, engaging imagery and heavy edits, this one book could be expanded into a five-part series of 100,000 word novels (and that’s forgetting the rest of the series).
As it is, if you took the characters out and presented Foundation as an essay, it would make more sense.
I enjoyed parts of the book for its ideas, and for the inkling of greater things that poked at my imagination - Derelict Imperial Cruisers, threats of war and the fear of retaliation from the Empire. Some of the characters were okay. Salvor Hardin and Hari Seldon were decent, for instance. My favourite story out of the lot was The Mayors - the third - where Mayor Salvor Hardin prevents a war by showing just how much the Foundation has infiltrated the hearts and minds of their entire society. But overall, it doesn’t hold up, and I won’t be prioritising reading further in the series. There’s a niggling curiosity in the back of my mind to see where the Foundation goes after The Merchant Princes, so I may read the next book at some point, but it won’t be for a very long time.
Oh, and something that made me laugh, that’s absolutely indicative of its time: The first mention of a woman character is on page 186. We see her all of twice, though she does hold significant political influence - she was quite interesting, actually. But the book is only 231 pages long! There’s also the preponderance on ATOMIC EVERYTHING. I’m sure modern writers will be laughed at in 100 years time for our quaint ideas about far future technology, but it was nonetheless amusing to read the idea that literally everything in Asimov’s future is powered by atomic generators. From spaceships to personal shields, to weapons and dishwashers and even women’s clothing accessories. It’s a good thing Asimov assures us they’ve cured cancer 50,000 years from now.
But there’s also the idea that Asimov didn’t think beyond the miniaturisation of atomic power. He has a character state that atomic power is a fifty thousand year-old technology. Surely a Galactic Empire that’s been around for 12,000 years, 50,000 years from now, would be using something other than nuclear fission - which is undoubtedly the type of “atomic power” Asimov is talking about here, given it was a new thing at the time he was writing this. Only seventy years on, and we’re so close to having viable nuclear fusion power. Tens of thousands of years in the future I’d expect us to be a lot further on than that (and we’d need to be, if we’re to travel the stars and become a galactic civilisation).
There’s weird errors in the version of the book I’ve got as well. I don’t mean the odd typo that’s slipped through, but a character in the final story called Sutt is routinely and erroneously referred to as “Sun”. I thought at first it was just an expression the characters were using (like “great galloping galaxies!” - that one made me laugh, legitimately) but as I read on, it definitely seemed like they were using Sun as Sutt’s name. Very odd.